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We provide the best and most educated National Football League picks based on relevant statistic and resources, along with: key injuries, Historical results, and accurate comparisons.
Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan’s influence in New Orleans has turned the Saints defense around. His brother Rex’s Jets sport a running game that can wear a defense down, but will that be enough for New York against Drew Brees and the Saints in Jersey?
Thursday Night Football, October 31 8:25 PM ET – TV: NFL Network
Cincinnati Bengals 6-2 @ Miami Dolphins 3-4
In Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton’s first five games, he threw 5-touchdown passes and 5-interceptions when the Bengals offense struggled. Things have gotten much better for Dalton and the Bengals offense over the last few weeks. A key element on the offensive end, particularly at receiver, has given him another weapon on the opposite side of A.J. Green. That weapon is Marvin Jones, a second-year receiver the team drafted in 2012 in the 5th round out of California. Jones has been targeted 34 times and has 24-receptions, 369-yards, averaging 15.4-yards per catch and 7-touchdowns. 4 of those 7-touchdown grabs came last week against the Jets when he and Dalton connected 8 times for 122-yards and 4 scores. Jones’ emergence has helped Dalton throw 11-touchdown passes and only 2-interceptions in the Bengals three of four consecutive wins. The Dolphins have lost four straight contest and players within the offense are stating their concern with offensive coordinator Mike Sherman. Receiver Mike Wallace is the prime-spokesman in questioning Sherman’s play-calling, but my concern with Miami is the horrific play upfront on the offensive line. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s been under duress and was sacked 6 times in New England last week, a part of him throwing 2-interceptions due to the Patriots pass-rush. Turning over the football will derail any team and Tannehill has thrown 9-interceptions along with 8-fumbles to round out 17-turnovers on the season. He’s also completing only 54.5-percent of his passes over the last four games, and getting better protection against a hard-nosed Bengals defensive front, one of the best in the business is a must for Miami’s offense to be able to sustain drives. Speaking of O-line issues, things didn’t get better for Miami this week as starting tackle Jonathan Martin has decided to leave the team after reportedly being the victim of a prank at the team cafeteria. You know, I really liked the way things looked futuristic-wise for Miami after their first three games, but I’m sensing a team that’s losing themselves here. And the team they face this Thursday night has all positives pumping in their veins. Aside from that, Miami’s defense hasn’t really been stifled and will keep this game close, but the turnover-edge goes to Cincinnati in this matchup. Pick: Bengals 27, Dolphins 20
Final Score: Dolphins (4-4) 22, Bengals (6-3) 20 in OT
Sunday, November 3
1:00 PM ET
Kansas City Chiefs 8-0 @ Buffalo Bills 3-5 – TV: CBS
Buffalo’s offensive line needs to step things up. Injured quarterback E.J. Manuel’s replacement Thad Lewis (Foot) has been sacked 13 times since taking over under center. Lewis is expected to play over Jeff Tuel and newly acquired Matt Flynn despite being hampered, and he gets a Kansas City defense that’s the top unit in all of football at getting after the quarterback. Buffalo’s offense is going to need the running game to bail him out of being in lots of passing situations. That banged up foot of Lewis’ has slowed him down, not being able to use his feet like he’d like to, but he’ll be forced to use them with a group of wild-pass-rushers coming his way, Kansas City’s Tamba Hali, Dontari Poe and Justin Houston, the causers of the defense leading the league with 36-sacks. The Bills offense didn’t get much out of running back Fred Jackson, who ran for 45-yards on 15-carries in New Orleans. Jackson started for the injured C.J. Spiller (Ankle) last week and Spiller’s status remains iffy to return to the Bills backfield this Sunday. Jackson (MCL) is playing through the pain and not getting much action during practice. Not looking good for Buffalo and they need both Jackson and Spiller at 100 percent. The bright spot for Buffalo has been the defense, however. They rank second behind Kansas City with 27-sacks. Mainly, defensive end Mario Williams has been the ultimate provider in that category with 11 of them. The major difference between these two squads is on the offensive line, an area where the Chiefs are much, much better than Buffalo, and I see the Chiefs defensive front derailing a lack-luster Bills group of porous offensive lineman from start to finish.
Pick: Chiefs 19, Bills 9
Minnesota Vikings 1-6 @ Dallas Cowboys 4-4 – TV: FOX
With concerns ringing in his head about the health of starting running back DeMarco Murray, team owner/general manager Jerry Jones was wavering around the rumor-mill of potentially trying to trade Murray and another prone to injury player, receiver Miles Austin. Rumors of the team trying to strike a deal with Minnesota for Adrian Peterson was buzzing around Texas, but what the Cowboys had to give Minnesota would’ve been way too many sacrifices and a major pile of jigsaw-puzzle fixing of the teams current messy cap situation. So, no trade and Murray’s finally ready to return from his knee injury to start this weekend against his former teammate at Oklahoma that’ll be carrying the football for the struggling Vikings. And you have to wonder how long before the games most electrifying runner will have a breakout game? Peterson’s last 20-plus carry game was in London, a game the Vikings defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 34-27 with Peterson rushing for 140-yards and 2-touchdowns. Minnesota’s struggles at quarterback has become a guessing-game each week on who will start, and Vikings coach Leslie Frazier announced Friday that Christian Ponder will get the go. Any good at changing the pace for Minnesota’s passing game? Doesn’t really matter who’s throwing the football for the Vikings passing-attack, it’s bad and Dallas’ putrid against the pass defense catches a break this weekend, but next week they go to the “Big Easy” to face Drew Brees and the Saints prolific passing-machine. Good luck with that.
Pick: Cowboys 34, Vikings 20
Tennessee Titans 3-4 @ St. Louis Rams 3-5 – TV: CBS
I’m perplexed on how long it took for Titans head coach Mike Munchak to finally realize they need to feed the ball to running back Chris Johnson. The star running back hasn’t had a game since week 2 of carrying the football 20 times. Surely, having Jake Locker healed from dealing with a hip and knee injury at quarterback gives the Titans offense some spunk, but Johnson needs to start making things happen. It’s rare not seeing Johnson have a 100-yard performance this season, and word from his coach is that he’ll get 20-carries a game going forward. He has a chance to have a breakout game against a Rams defense that’s been susceptible to the run in games before their solid effort versus Seattle in a loss. You can make a strong case of the Rams defense shutting down Seattle’s running game due a depleted Seahawks offensive line, but Jeff Fisher’s squad played with an extreme level of high energy, something a Jeff Fisher coached team got out of his players when he was the coach of the visiting team he faces this weekend, the Titans. Zac Stacy, St. Louis’ rookie runner has ignited the Rams rushing attack, but with Kellen Clemens quarterbacking for the injured Sam Bradford, the passing game remains in flux. Stacy sprained his ankle on Monday and his status is up in the air. If he can’t get the go, Daryl Richardson will start. With things leaning more towards Stacy being out, Richardson just doesn’t fit the bill for the Rams offense to get positive yardage on first down. Tennessee’s D-line is suited to get after Clemens without an effective Rams running game, and Locker has the runner that is due for a breakout game to hand the ball off to. No way will Chris Johnson go the entire season without a big game. This has to be the week we see some TD-scampers from him.
Pick: Titans 24, Rams 20
New Orleans Saints 6-1 @ N.Y. Jets 4-4 – TV: FOX
If you’re going to slow down New Orleans’ offense, you need to control the clock on the offensive end. The Jets offense may be a turnover-prone offense with a rookie quarterback Geno Smith at signal-caller, but grounding and pounding with running backs Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory is the key pedigree to wear a defense down for 4 quarters of football. That’s what New York’s approach should be this weekend. They don’t have an offense that can go toe-to-toe with Drew Brees’ mass-weapons of receivers at his expense. Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson are two dominant forces on the Jets D-line, and they need an A-plus performance to disrupt the timing of Brees who gets rid of the football quickly. Although New Orleans’ offense is the standout factor that receives all the hype, the defense has been on point on third down and allowing only 17.1-points per game. I like New York’s chances of using a smash-mouth game plan, but when it comes down to converting on third down and formulating a favorable one-on-one matchup downfield, I like the Saints to make something happen late in the 4th quarter in game that comes down to the wire.
Pick: Saints 24, N.Y. Jets 20
San Diego Chargers 4-3 @ Washington Redskins 2-5 – TV: CBS
“If we suck at passing, we suck at passing.” Those are the words that came out of Redskins receiver Pierre Garcon’s mouth when asked about it after the loss to the Broncos. That didn’t stand to well with veteran receiver Santana Moss. “If that’s your opinion, find a way to keep your opinion to yourself and express it around where it needs to be expressed.” Clearly, there’s lots of frustration going on with Washington’s miscues on the X’s and O’s, a non-issue for their final seven regular-season games in 2012. Washington is running the ball fairly well, but connecting dots downfield hasn’t been on the plus side of things. And at times, the offensive line has vanished and Robert Griffin III is getting sacked for huge losses. San Diego’s defense has had its lapses against the pass and this could be the week the Redskins and RGIII get big plays downfield. Nothing’s cold on the opposite side of the fence with San Diego’s offense. Philip Rivers is looking like the quarterback that led the Chargers to the playoffs in his first few seasons in the league, and running back Ryan Mathews, a prone to injury running back is healthy and looking for his third straight 100-yard performance against a dreadful Redskins defense. Here’s a key stat to look at on the Rivers-Meter: He’s completing 73.9-percent of his passes, leading the league. Guess who holds the record for highest completion percentage in a single season? Drew Brees, 71.2 in 2011. Defensively, watching Washington’s defense get skunked by Denver running back Knowshon Moreno for 6-cathes and 89-yards out of the backfield on dinks, dunks and screens has me eyeing San Diego exploiting their defense with Danny Woodhead, the quiet “X-Factor” of the league in helping an offense create mismatches on spread-formations.
Pick: Chargers 31, Redskins 27
Atlanta Falcons 2-5 @ Carolina Panthers 4-3 – TV: FOX
Steven Jackson’s return to the Falcons lineup didn’t do anything to up the struggling Falcons last week out in Arizona. Jackson ran for 6-yards on 11-carries, and most importantly, the rust of being out of action played a major role against a gang-tackling Cardinals defense. The lack of anything going for the Falcons offense on the ground forced Matt Ryan to throw the football 61 times, not a recipe for success. Receiver Roddy White (Ankle) has yet to resume practicing and as the weeks go on, I wonder if we’ll ever see a healthy version of White catching passes from Ryan this season. This game can be so cruel at times in the avenue of being hit with the injury-bug, and with Atlanta’s struggling offense strolling into Carolina this weekend to face a defense that’s ranked second in the league in points allowed, somehow, someway, they need Jackson to be able to get hard-fought yardage. Problem is, he looked stiff without any burst in them once powerful legs last week. I don’t see him plowing his way through Carolina linebackers Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly, two ball-hawking tacklers that will have flies on Jackson’s eye-balls all afternoon. The Panthers offense should be able to mix and match with the run on some play-action passes effectively against an Atlanta defense that’s lacking a consistent pass-rush. If you have Cam Newton on your fantasy roster, expect to gain a good chunk of some points from his feet and arm. That’s for you fantasy-lovers out there, but what I’m looking at going forward for Carolina in terms of mettle-testing is what they have on the docket the next two weeks, @ San Francisco and home versus Tom Brady and the Patriots, two games that will define how good the Panthers really are.
Pick: Panthers 30, Falcons 17
4:05 PM ET
Philadelphia Eagles 3-5 @ Oakland Raiders 3-4 – TV: FOX
Clearly, without Michael Vick (Hamstring) under center running the fast-paced system that Chip Kelly had in place at the beginning of the season, the Eagles offense lacks explosiveness. The offense has generated only 3-points over their last two games, 3 against Dallas and 0 against the Giants. Their only touchdown came on a fumble return on defense late in the fourth quarter last week. Matt Barkley replaced Vick when he re-aggravated his hamstring and went 17 of 26 with an interception. Barkley won’t get the start in Oakland this weekend as Nick Foles (Concussion) has been cleared to play and is practicing in full this week. The main reason in Philadelphia’s downturn on the offensive side of the ball without Vick is not being able to keep defenses guessing on the read-option. With Vick and McCoy present at full-flight, you can do Chip Kelly things, but without them together, you can’t be as creative. Traveling out west to play against a feisty Raiders defense that doesn’t allow big plays on the ground, things look very bleak for McCoy and the Eagles running game to get things going. Oakland’s defense hasn’t allowed a run of 20 or more yards this season. In searching for a positive, Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis’ unit has been playing much better over the last couple of weeks, and Oakland’s offense hasn’t been anything spectacular outside of quarterback Terrelle Pryor getting into open space off the read-option. What I do like about the chances of things getting better for Oakland’s offense is a healthy Darren McFadden running the ball, who scored twice, one on a wild-cat formation last week. In the grand scheme of this matchup, I like both defenses to focus in on the run, but Oakland has much more continuity going in that aspect, and I’m banking on Nick Foles to take chances on an underrated Raiders defense, something that gets him burned.
Pick: Raiders 19, Eagles 16
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 0-7 @ Seattle Seahawks 7-1 – TV: FOX
The wait of Percy Harvin (Hip) getting on the field will have to take at least another week for Seattle’s receiving corps that’s thin without Sidney Rice (ACL) for the remainder of the season. Second year receiver Jermaine Kearse will start in Rice’s spot until Harvin is ready to go. I’m not going to say Seattle should be pushing panic-buttons, but knowing Harvin’s history of being inactive and his hip flaring up has to have some red-flagness in the thought process going forward. I like the fact of teams keeping the game plan intact as a unit, but Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell needs to have some switching up of the playbook going on here. Why? Did you hear them “Crack and Booms” of the Rams D-line getting bench-press like pushes off the ball on a depleted Seahawks offensive line on Monday? Without tackles Breno Giacomini and Russell Okung, the pass-protection for quarterback Russell Wilson has been on the downside of things, and you don’t want him using his feet often, the same in overworking running back Marshawn Lynch. I expected rookie running back Christine Michael to be part of the plan by now to give Lynch a breather, but don’t throw that possibility in the trash yet. Robert Turbin has chipped in, but he’s more of a passing-down back that’s used as a pass-catcher out in the flats here and there. What I’m basically saying is, Seattle needs to start making their plan B’s and C’s because you know they’ll be playing postseason ball unless disaster strikes, and this isn’t a disastrous situation, just a concern. Oh, as far as the game goes, wait a minute, I meant “Cupcake Game,” meaning something as easy as saying your ABC’s for Seattle in the pacific northwest against the winless Bucs, go “Vegas-Style” on this with the shades on banking on Seattle to cover their spread as 16-point favorites.
Pick: Seahawks 34, Buccaneers 13
4:25 PM ET
Baltimore Ravens 3-4 @ Cleveland Browns 3-5 – TV: CBS
Does it really matter who throws Josh Gordon the ball? Rather it’s Brandon Weeden, Brian Hoyer or Jason Campbell, Gordon’s numbers continue to be an eye-catcher for everyone to endure week in and week out. And rumor has it that the Browns received many good offers for Gordon on Tuesday’s trade deadline, but not enough for Cleveland to ship him away. I wouldn’t do it either. Rebuilding teams don’t usually play the game of “Musical-Chairs” with young talent not on the high price-tag range. If anything, majority team owner Jimmy Haslam has to find him a quarterback and team that can build around the young and talented receiver. Jason Campbell played well in a losing effort in Kansas City, but he clearly isn’t the franchise quarterback in Cleveland. Speaking of franchise quarterbacks, Baltimore’s Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco and the Ravens return to action off their bye week looking to regroup. Baltimore’s offense has struggled mightily due to a lack of running game. Ray Rice suffered a strained hip flexor in week 2 and hasn’t been the same since. Rice has shown a lack of his turbo-like speed that makes plays in the open field, but he did mention he’s feeling a lot better during the week off. That’s the difference here. Baltimore is more trust worthy of regrouping and still has an abundance of players that have come together when the going get rough, while Cleveland is still in testing of personnel for the future mode.
Pick: Ravens 23, Browns 14
Pittsburgh Steelers 2-5 @ New England Patriots 6-2 – TV: CBS
Losing an important part of the offensive line is always a blow to the stomach. Sebastian Vollmer, New England’s right tackle broke his leg last week and is done for the remainder of the season. The Patriots have been dealing with a slew of injuries and have lost key pieces on both sides of the ball. Vollmer is one of the better pass-blocking tackles in the game, a major part of New England consistent level of protecting Tom Brady. Next man up is third-year tackle Marcus Cannon, a lineman that has been decent in replacing injured players on the O-line. He replaced the injured Dan Connolly at right guard against the Saints and allowed hardly any pressure on Brady against a stingy Dolphins pass-rush. Surprising? Absolutely not, this is the Patriots and how many times have we seen this team make adjustments and position players that best suite them in all areas of the team? I’ll answer that for you, every year. Coaching, it’s always one of the more forgotten aspects of being a successful team, the instruction and personality of the coach that transcends down to the players to be successful if the players respect their leader of men. You have that with New England’s Bill Belichick, Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin and defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau. The team always feels like it has a chance and rarely do you ever see anything less than 100 percent effort on game day. You also have two quarterbacks in this game that have won big through the smoke and fire, New England’s Tom Brady and Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger that always give their team a chance, but in the end, Belichick is usually the one that better prepares his team when it’s time to start playing your best football. Remember, New England won 11 games in 08 without Tom Brady. Get my drift here?
Pick: Patriots 30, Steelers 17
Sunday Night Football in America 8:30 PM ET – TV: NBC
Indianapolis Colts 5-2 @ Houston Texans 2-5
Considering the issues Houston has had in the passing game and at quarterback, this deficiency will only turn around if the most important player on the team Arian Foster (Hamstring) can get to 100 percent to start doing what he does best, running and catching out of the backfield. His status looks iffy, but with a return to practice, it looks like he might play, but only on a limited basis. Ben Tate, his side-kick and change-of-pace back is dealing with rib issues and isn’t up to par as well. Matt Schaub is healthy enough to play, but will back up Case Keenum, who makes his second straight start for the Texans at quarterback. Keenum kept the Texans in the game at Kansas City last week, but a costly fumble late in the 4th quarter added another loss to Houston’s nightmarish-season as they have fallen three games under the .500 mark. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ group needs a stellar performance on pressuring Colts quarterback Andrew Luck if they have a chance this weekend at Reliant Stadium, and I expect his group to do everything they can to pressure Luck by manufacturing pressure with a bunch of different looks. This could be a game the Colts call on running back Trent Richardson to get a good number of carries, but I’m not expecting Richardson to run wild on a fired up Texans defense in a must win game. We’ll see lots of third and longs for both quarterback’s, but ultimately, the team that wins this game is the team that wins the turnover battle in a make-or-break slugfest, Indianapolis.
Pick: Colts 23, Texans 20
Monday Night Football, November 4 8:30 PM ET – TV: ESPN
Chicago Bears 4-3 @ Green Bay Packers 5-2
The style of runner you have dictates the passing game. The runner can also have a positive influence on the offensive line. The Packers came into this season with lots of questions marks on the offensive line, particularly when losing starting left tackle Bryan Bulaga. And during the course of the season, they’ve lost some key weapons at receiver. Randall Cobb (Fibula) is out for an extended period of time, James Jones (Knee) began practicing on a limited basis and is listed as questionable. So how is this working? Surely, Aaron Rodgers’ influence at quarterback can turn nothing’s into something’s. No surprise in that part, but what’s been immensely impressive is the play of rookie running back Eddie Lacy mixing things up with James Starks to give the Packers offense balance with an effective running game. Lacy’s 20-plus carries a game began against Detroit on Oct. 6 and has rushed for 395-yards on 97-carries dating back to that contest. Mainly, he’s progressed week-by-week and you can only imagine if their receiving-core gets fully healthy down the stretch on how much more dangerous they can be offensively. As for Chicago, things look very bleak with multiple injuries on both sides of the ball. The biggest blow to the team is having quarterback Jay Cutler (Groin) sidelined for at least two to three more weeks. With Josh McCown as Cutler’s substitute, the line has been disconnected. No Marc Trestman and Cutler all wired up to dial things up like they did earlier in the season. In conclusion to this matchup, look for Green Bay to continue the same formula by grounding and pounding the rock with Lacy and changing the pace with Starks to set up the play-action pass, and then “Bombs Away” deep-ball to Jordy Nelson. Pick: Packers 31, Bears 20
Bye: Denver Broncos 7-1, Detroit Lions 5-3, N.Y. Giants 2-6, Arizona Cardinals 4-4, San Francisco 49ers 6-2, Jacksonville Jaguars 0-8
You can follow Massimo Russo on Twitter @NFLMassimo and SilverandBlueReport.com @SilverBlueRpt